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Understanding the sorption and biotransformation of organic micropollutants in innovative biological wastewater treatment technologies

Published: 1 February 2018

Abstract: New technologies for wastewater treatment have been developed in the last years based on the combination of biological reactors operating under different redox conditions. Their efficiency in the removal of organic micropollutants (OMPs) has not been clearly assessed yet. This review paper is focussed on understanding the sorption and biotransformation of a selected group of 17 OMPs, including pharmaceuticals, hormones and personal care products, during biological wastewater treatment processes. Apart from considering the role of "classical" operational parameters, new factors such as biomass conformation and particle size, upward velocity applied or the addition of adsorbents have been considered. It has been found that the OMP removal by sorption not only depends on their physico-chemical characteristics and other parameters, such as the biomass conformation and particle size, or some operational conditions also relevant. Membrane biological reactors (MBR), have shown to enhance sorption and biotransformation of some OMPs. The same applies to technologies bases on direct addition of activated carbon in bioreactors. The OMP biotransformation degree and pathway is mainly driven by the redox potential and the primary substrate activity. The combination of different redox potentials in hybrid reactor systems can significantly enhance the overall OMP removal efficiency. Sorption and biotransformation can be synergistically promoted in biological reactors by the addition of activated carbon. The deeper knowledge of the main parameters influencing OMP removal provided by this review will allow optimizing the biological processes in the future.
Keywords: Activated carbon / Biotransformation / Pharmaceuticals / Removal mechanism / Sorption

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